MADRID, April 13, (Agencies): Cristiano Ronaldo revelled in the glory of scoring a hat-trick to inspire a stunning Real Madrid comeback to reach the Champions League semi-finals with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Wolfsburg on Tuesday.
The Spanish giants made amends for their shock 2-0 defeat in Germany six days ago as Ronaldo struck twice in just over 60 seconds early on before sealing the comeback with a trademark free-kick 13 minutes from time for a 3-0 victory on the night.
“It had to be a magic night and it was. It was the perfect game in the end,” said Ronaldo.
“We had to be patient for an hour but it was the perfect night in the end.”
Ronaldo has now struck 46 goals in all competitions this season, meaning he has 45 or more in each of his last six seasons for Madrid.
“Goals are in my DNA and I want to keep scoring them for the team,” he added.
However, the three-time World Player of the Year had still received criticism earlier in the campaign for not performing in Real’s biggest games as Barcelona rival Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or to crown the world’s best player in January.
Yet, having also scored the winner in El Clasico against Barca just 10 days ago, Ronaldo was quick to turn on his critics.
“Considering this has been a bad season for me it has not been that bad.
“People can criticise me, but I just keep on going and the numbers are there for all to see.
“I am very happy and with a month left of the season I can get even better.”
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed his side’s collective effort, but reserved special praise for Ronaldo, who became the first player to score three hat-tricks in the competition in one season as he took his Champions League tally for the campaign to 15.
“He is showing what he is, which is the best player in the world,” said Zidane.
“Cristiano needs the whole team, I want to speak about the team because they achieved this together.
“But he is special because not everyone is capable of scoring three goals.”
Despite a history littered with famous European fightbacks at the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid hadn’t managed to overcome a first leg deficit in their previous eight attempts dating back 14 years to when Zidane played for the club.
And he basked in the glory of a “special” night as he continues to defy the critics of his limited coaching experience, having taken on the huge challenge of his first senior managerial role in January.
“The feelings are of a job well done because it was not easy, but I am very happy and proud of what the players did tonight,” added Zidane.
“It was a special night. We achieved what we set out to do and very happy for the players because they stuck together and were phenomenal.”
By contrast, Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking rued his side’s lack of experience at this stage of the competition as the bowed out having reached the last eight for the first time.
“Madrid deserved to qualify, they deserved to win today and we didn’t understand correctly what we needed to do,” said Hecking.
“We should have defended better. To go to the next stage, we needed a goal.
“Two of the three goals were from dead balls and so that tells you that we didn’t defend right.”
“We are proud. We deserved to get here. We grew this season in the Champions League and people will remember our games.”
Zinedine Zidane overcame the biggest challenge of his fledgling coaching career as Real Madrid brushed aside VfL Wolfsburg to overturn a first-leg deficit and reach the Champions League semi-finals.
Last week’s surprise 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg left the Frenchman facing the prospect of becoming the first Madrid coach since Manuel Pellegrini in 2010 to fail to reach the last four of the competition.
Tuesday’s hat-trick from a resurgent Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu saved him from that fate.
“I’ve lived football as a player, I know what it is like. I am now living it as a coach, which is much more difficult,” admitted Zidane after the 3-2 aggregate win.
“I can’t worry about what might happen. We have to be calm when this (losing a first leg) happens; you can’t go mad because all sorts of things happen in football.”
Zidane attracted criticism for starting Danilo rather than Dani Carvajal in the first leg in Germany and for his decision to take off Luka Modric, saying: “I had to do something”.
In the second leg, Zidane reinstated the Spaniard at right back and the decision had an instant impact, with Carvajal showing desire to beat Julian Draxler to the ball in midfield and then setting up Ronaldo’s opener.
“We are a team and I always have to make decisions, we all win together but it’s true that Carvajal was enormous today,” said Zidane.
The Frenchman vowed not to get ahead of himself after the win, which was the first time Madrid had overturned a first-leg deficit in the Champions League since 2002 when a team containing Zidane saw off Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals on their way to lifting the trophy.
“I never got a big head as a player and it won’t happen as a coach either after a night like this, I know how difficult this job is,” said Zidane, who has repeatedly talked about the expectations on a Madrid manager since succeeding Rafa Benitez in January.
The coach did not shy away from suggestions that Ronaldo had saved his reputation, and possibly his job.
“He is the best player in the world and nights like tonight make him a special player,” said Zidane. “He makes the difference.”